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Sich-Kolomea Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Vegreville, Near

Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Dormition of St. Mary of Sich-Kolomea (otherwise known as Sich-Kolomea Ukrainian Orthodox Church) is part of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. Constructed in 1926, it is a wood-frame church built on a cruciform plan in the Byzantine tradition. It faces west on a 1.5 acre landscaped site at the intersection of Range Road 155 and Township Road 540, northwest of Vegreville in the County of Minburn. A bell tower added in 1963 stands immediately north of the church.

Heritage Value
The Church is valued for its association with the settlement of the immediate area by Ukrainian immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century. It stands as a symbol of the religious devotion and community spirit of these immigrants.

In addition, the Church is valued for its role as an important gathering place and place of worship for the Ukrainian community. A fire destroyed the congregation’s first church, which was located nearby. The present church was constructed in 1926 by contractor-builder, Joseph (Jarema) Janishewski, who is known to have built a number of churches in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and it is believed that this was the first structure in Alberta to be specifically built as a Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church. It served the pioneer farmers of the area, and was the first church in what was to become the Vegreville mission district. Sich-Kolomea also served as a place of worship for the Ukrainian Orthodox faithful of nearby Vegreville until 1928 when a congregation was formed there.

The Church is also valued for its design, which reflects the western Canadian interpretation of the Byzantine style of church architecture. It features a cruciform plan with a central drum and onion-shaped dome, and four smaller drums and domes rising out of the peak of the cross-gable roof at each end of the cruciform plan. Each dome is then surmounted by a metal tri-bar Orthodox cross. A harmonious whole design is created by the consistent eave lines which unify the complex roof line comprised of gable and hip elements. The original 1926 colours featuring cream-coloured walls, earthen-brown trim and window frames, and black window sashes give the church a unique, striking appearance. The interior possesses an illustration of traditional schemes and colours including gold stars on a blue vaulted ceiling, stenciled motifs and bands being Corinthian pilasters and arches, and a painted ceiling medallion at the apex of the central dome. One of the unusual features of St. Mary’s Church is that the congregation never got around to installing an iconostas, undoubtedly because of the great expense that such an undertaking would involve.

Further, the Church is valued as one of a collection of sites that illustrate the Ukrainian pioneer experience in the community. With the neighboring Ukrainian Catholic Church of Spasa-Muskalik appearing on the horizon to the west, and the parish cemetery located one mile to the west and half a mile north, and Sich School visible one mile to the east, Sich-Kolomea Church is a vital part of the cultural landscape of the area. The visibility and uniqueness provided by its treed setting elicits favourable comments from visitors and it serves as a significant landmark.

Character-Defining Elements
Character-defining elements of the Dormition of St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Sich-Kolomea include such features as:

Church Exterior
- the church’s central axis aligned in an east-west direction with an apse at the east end;
- the cruciform plan, scale and massing, including high-pitched cross-gable roof with return eaves;
- the church constructed of dimensional lumber and sheathed on the exterior with painted horizontal siding;
- the large central onion-shaped dome over the crossing of the nave and transept, supported by an octagonal drum. The dome is sheathed with sheet metal, topped by a cupola and a small dome terminating in a ball surmounted by a metal tri-bar Orthodox cross;
- four smaller drums and domes (each surmounted by tri-bar Orthodox crosses) rising out of the peak of the cross-gable roof on each end of the cruciform plan;
- the sanctuary contained in the apse, flanked by sacristies on the north and south sides;
- windows on the walls of the nave, transept ends, and apse, and on four faces of the drum they are fixed and contain a muntin pattern in the shape of a cross, accentuated with patterned coloured glass. Each window is also surmounted with a semi-circular transom, glazed with patterned coloured glass;
- front entryway, complete with its bracketed projection, dentils, and sunburst pediment – all being a unique addition to the front façade.

Church Interior:
- a large open space in the church proper, with provision for seating where the congregation gathers in celebration of the Divine Liturgy, or other sacraments;
- the spatial configuration of nave, transepts, and sanctuary, with attached sacristies;
- vaulted ceilings in the open dome, nave, and transepts;
- choir loft and stair access from the west end of the nave;
- interior double paneled doors opening from the narthex into the nave;
- interior finishes including V-joint tongue-and-groove over vertical tongue-and-groove wainscoting, fir flooring, door and window wood trim, decorative mouldings, and chair rails;
- iconic and decorative elements painted onto the interior V-joint sheathing such as Corinthian pilasters and arches, stars on the blue dome, and a ceiling medallion at the apex of the central dome;
- original cantor’s pew, built by Peter Svarich;
- a large open space in the basement, with tables and benches, where the congregation gathers for meals, church meetings, and fundraising events.


Street Address: 54001 Range Road 155
Community: Vegreville, Near
Boundaries: SW 5-54-15-W4
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1
Structures: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
53.62918 -112.18831 Digital Maps NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Local Governments (AB)
Designation Status: Municipal Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2012/08/20

Historical Information

Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Building Social and Community Life : Religious Institutions
Historic Function(s): Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Current Function(s): Religion, Ritual and Funeral : Religious Facility or Place of Worship
Builder: Joseph (Jarema) Janishewski
Context: The Dormition of St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Sich-Kolomea has historic value in that the history of the congregation and church provides a good illustration of the turbulent beginnings of religious life among the Ukrainian immigrants in Canada. Because of a shortage of priests from the “old country”, Greek Catholic or Orthodox, there ensued, in Canada, a competition for the religious allegiance of the Ukrainian immigrants, among various faiths including: Ukrainian Greek Catholic (Uniate), Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant, particularly Methodist and Presbyterian. In addition, a new church was established in the early 1900s, the Independent Greek Church, which was sponsored by the Presbyterian Church.
The name Sich-Kolomea was taken from the two schools established in the immediate vicinity of the church. Sich School, located one mile east of the church, took its name from “sich”, the term used by the Cossacks of Ukraine for a permanent military fortress. Kolomea School, located four miles south of the church, was named after Kolomyia, an important centre of that region of Galicia in western Ukraine from whence the settlers emigrated. The early parishioners of the church came mostly from these school districts and so the church and local area became known as Sich-Kolomea.
The origins of the congregation at the locality of Sich-Kolomea, northwest of Vegreville, go back to 1900 when the first Ukrainian pioneers arrived to take up their homesteads. A rudimentary church was soon built and it was served by a succession of priests of the Independent Greek Church, the Ukrainian Presbyterian Church, and occasionally by Russian Orthodox missionaries. History shows that for a variety of reasons, the congregation was not fully satisfied with their services.
When Rev. Dmytro Stratychuk began his missionary work in late March, 1920, on behalf of the newly established Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada, Sich-Kolomea became the second Alberta congregation to invite him to celebrate a liturgy in their community. This happy event took place in the modest church which had been originally built as an Independent sanctuary, at the site of the present parish cemetery. Subsequently, the congregation of Sich-Kolomea re-organized itself as part of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada. In the course of the next few years, itinerant Ukrainian Orthodox priests who had to serve many parishes in Alberta, administered to the religious needs of the Sich-Kolomea congregation. A visitation by Archbishop Ioan Theodorovich was celebrated in February, 1925.
The circumstances and date of a fire which destroyed the first church are unknown, but on January 20, 1926, at the congregation’s annual meeting, it was resolved to proceed with the construction of a new church at a new location a mile east and half a mile south of the former church site, on land donated by Michael Cherniawsky. Joseph (Jarema) Janishewski of Edmonton, who is known to have built a number of churches in Alberta and Saskatchewan, was the contractor-builder. It is believed that the new church was the first structure in Alberta to be built specifically as a Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church. The new sanctuary was then blessed by Archibishop Ioan Theodorovich at a service held on Saturday, September 4, 1926, the feast day of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. As noted in the Edmonton newspaper “Nash postup – Our Progress” (11 September 1926, p.4) the dedication of the church was attended by approximately 1000 inhabitants of rural East Central Alberta.
The Dormition of St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church was the first congregation to be organized and the first church to be built in what was to become the Vegreville parish district. Until 1928, when a congregation was organized in Vegreville, some supporters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church living in town belonged to the Sich-Kolomea congregation. Even after St. Vladimir’s Church was constructed in Vegreville in the early thirties, some of its members continued to frequently attend services at St. Mary’s because of family connections or because they simply enjoyed the experience of worshipping in a country church.
Michael Luchkovich, Member of Parliament for the federal riding of Vegreville, the first Member of Parliament in Canada of Ukrainian origin, was listed as a member of Sich-Kolomea Church in 1926.
Peter Svarich, a leading Ukrainian pioneer activist who also had a regional and national profile, was listed as a member of Sich-Kolomea Church in 1926. His ties to the Sich-Kolomea congregation go back to the beginnings of settlement in the area in 1900 when his family and others took up homesteads in the area.
Social, Spiritual Value
The Dormition of St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church continues to serve as a parish church for members living in the surrounding farming area, in Vegreville, and in the Sherwood Park area near Edmonton. Easter Sunday services, grave memorial services, and patron saint’s day services are particularly well-attended by present members, former members, the families of present and former members now living elsewhere, and guests. It is believed that for many, attendance at these services has become an important way of keeping in touch with roots and family, and a way of paying tribute to the ancestor pioneers of the Sich-Kolomea area.
Submitted by: Raymond Charuk, with credit to Jars Balan (historical researcher, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta) and Anton Bialuk (church member’s history).

Additional Information

Object Number: 4664-0295
Designation File:
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link:
Data Source: County of Minburn No. 27 Planning and Development Department Box 550, 4909 - 50 Street, Vegreville, AB T9C 1R6 File: R#655700
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